I'm Alex Kearney, a PhD student studying Computer Science at the University of Alberta. I focus on Artificial Intelligence and Epistemology.


Dylan and I walked up to the Japanese gardens and meandered around. It's still early in the year, but there was an abundance of blossoms opening up to the world. We sat and had tea next to the wet gardens, where a hummingbird joined us.


At Baker beach eating a bar of chocolate and watching the sun set over the golden gate bridge.


I met some of my Canadian neighbors on a walk through golden gate park. Seems like I’m not the only one escaping the winter in sunny California.


  • Aandered around my neighborhood
  • Almost destroyed my blog... twice
  • Went to the exploratorium after dark
  • Abandoned an application (!)
  • Dylan arrived for a visit
  • Went to the MoMa, again
  • Went to Zuni, again


I don't think there's a public space designed with more contempt for the people using it than airports. All the modern airports are designed so that you must walk through shops. It is not a choice and there are barracades preventing you from walking straight to your gate. Why does mass transit have to pretend it's a mall?


Recently, I was invited to give a talk at a philosophy workshop co-located with one of the conferences on interdisciplinary science in Porto. I spent close to two weeks in town. Dylan was in London for a meeting; we were lucky enough to be able to overlap our trips and take a little break in Porto for a few days.

Porto seems like a city in flux. When you talk to locals, they say it was very different five years ago. There's evidence of this in the cityscape. Wandering around parts of porto you'll find brand new developments sprouting out, giving the city a new face.

While the city seems to be growing and changing, by taking a few steps off the path---or, in some cases while staying on the path---you'll find derelict buildings. Walking to my accommodation when I arrived, I spotted a hollowed out building wedged between two still in use. Looking in the vacant windows you could see the roof had fallen in and only a few beams were left. This is the case in some of the more touristy areas as well. Next to some of the major museums, the university, or on your way to one of the port houses, you'll find buildings that are boarded, or with shattered windows.

I'm not sure what the story is there.

One of the reasons to visit Porto is to enjoy the architecture. Many of the city's historic buildings are covered in beautiful tiles. The facades and interiors of public spaces---including churches and train-stations and the like---are covered in scenes that are painted on tiles. The waterfront buildings are vibrant and colourful. You'll find bright buildings with clotheslines air-drying laundry above wine houses with delicious tapas.

There are also many examples of Baroque churches throughout town. These are gilt to excess, putting even spanish churches to shame. I guess that's the historical bounty of pillaging Brazil on display. While impressive, these churches are overwhelming: one was enough for me.

Interestingly, the cathedral is less visually shocking. Situated at the top of the hill overlooking both sides of the river, it's an older, more reserved example. I visited in the hopes of escaping a torrential downpour until the weather cleared. This was an excellent opportunity. While gargoyles have kept watch over many places I've visited, this was the first time that I'd seen one performing it's less spiritual duty: siphoning water away.

While I was aware of the cathedral before making my impromptu visit, I didn't know that one of its towers was open to the public. Clerigos Tower is most frequently suggested by travel guides, but the view from the cathedral is much more grand. Climbing up from the courtyard, you emerge to a panoramic view---possibly the highest in town.

The character of the city's architecture can be found not just in the facades of buildings, but also in the details and construction techniques. Many of the historic buildings in Porto with rich wood panelling actually have no wood at all! For instance, the walls and staircase of the famous bookstore, Livraria Lello, are made from plaster. At first glance, you wouldn't think it. Even when you're primed and looking for examples around town, it's difficult to discern the plaster imposters from the genuine lumber articles. Only when the facades are worn and chipped is it possible to be certain.

The people in Portugal are friendly and patient. They even overwhelmingly tolerated my terrible Portuguese. Some even taught me words so that I could make it through my next order at the local bakery a little more efficiently. Portuguese bakeries are as good as they are prolific. It's easy to start the day by grabbing and espresso and a tart while sitting in in a square.

Dylan and I happened to be visiting Porto during the 2019 Canadian federal election. When we sat down for dinner on the eve of the election, we found that the couple seated next to us at the bar were a couple from Calgary living in Vancouver. It's a small world.



I accidentally said "arigato gozaimasihta" to a Korean person for taking a photo of me while travelling, and I have never been so shamefully embarrassed in my life.


How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?


Exploring a neoclassical stock exchange at night


Sunset over a fortress at the end of the workshop. I learned a lot hanging out with the Porto gang.

There's so much interesting research on perception and embodiment out there. I'm excited to see how it shapes future work in machine intelligence and robotics.

At: DISSELF II and Avant Conference

From 2019-10-23T09:00 To 2019-10-26T12:00




Last leg of the trip

St Pancras railway station → London → Porto


Recently, I was invited to give a talk at a philosophy workshop co-located with one of the conferences on interdisciplinary science in Porto. I spent close to two weeks in town. While I was mostly focused on work, I did have a chance to dip out and explore the city. Here's my thoughts after walking around town. Here's a list of some of the places that stood out:

My Favourite Places to Visit in Porto:

Serralves is a contemporary art museum and one of the best galleries I've ever visited. The curation is fantastic; it gives visitors enough context to understand what the artist and the gallery are trying to communicate, without hand-holding the guests. Even if you're not a fan of modern art, Serralves is worth visiting: there's something for everyone.

The gardens surrounding the gallery are lush, and marked with several installations. In the center of the gardens is a fantastic example of art deco architecture: a house with a fountain leading from a cliff up to the main house.

Centro Portugues de Fotografia isn't a place highlighted by travel guides. It's close to all the tourist hot-spots, but receives much less attention.

It's worth a visit.

The centre for photography is a free museum located in a repurposed prison dating back to 1582. They didn't change much. The inner courtyard is a small square with iron bars for windows. The entrance to many exhibits is through heavy doors and bars.

Not all of the exhibits were worth writing home about, but several were exceptional. locating the gallery in a historic jailhouse gives it quirky charm. On the whole, it's a well curated gem close to where most people will be anyways. What's to lose by stopping by?

The Waterfront in Porto is a great place to wander and explore the city. There's an abundance of colourful buildings and neat narrow streets to explore. If you're willing to step off the tourist track, good, cheap food is abundant.

There's a number of wine houses along the shore of the river: a great place to grab a drink while watching the sun set flanked by Porto's iconic bridges.

A great way to get to the waterfront is to walk behind the Center for Photography to a look-out point of the river. From there, you can take steps that carve into the side of the hill down narrow streets that are decorated with the traditional ceramic tiles found in porto and a smattering of street art.

My Favourite Cafes in Porto

Epoca Porto is a great place for brunch. I had indescribably great eggs on sodabread toast. What was in them? I don't know.

early is a little cafe that seems to be built into an old bank. If you look into the back room, there's an old vault door that's mirrored on the inside. Dylan and I grabbed a bunch of plates to share as nibblies. Their roast cauliflower is the best I've had.

My Favourite Restaurants in Porto

O Calcua is a nice little place close to the centre of town. A group of us went here after the conference I attended, and it was memorably tasty---served family style.

O Comercial is a treasure hidden away in Palacio da Bolsa: a historic stock exchange in the center of town. There's only a handful of tables, so it's a quiet little getaway.

The Overrated

Taylor's Port is the oldest port firm, but it's not worth the trek. If you're interested in boozy drinks, chances are you're probably familiar with winery tours, or have at some point wandered through a distillery. The joy of these tours is getting to see where your favourite libations are made: getting to walk through the process.

You'd think that port--a fortified wine--would be the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, it's little more than a walking tour through one of the historic storehouses. Save yourself the time and drink port at any number of other places in town.

Livraria Lello is a breathtakingly beautiful bookstore. If you are at all interested in visiting, make sure you're one of the first 20 people through the door at the beginning of the day. At any other point in time, it is unbearably packed. It can take two or three minutes to descend the stairs as you weave through all the visitors taking selfies.

While the craftsmanship is excellent, it's near impossible to enjoy when peering through the crowds. It hardly seems safe; I can't imagine how deadly a fire would be with the way they pack tourists in.



It's been 10 years since I've been to the Tate. The last time I visited was the beginning of a trip through London and Paris to visit the major galleries.

I remember seeing the turbine room when How It Is was on display: a massive empty container that swallowed the light up as you walked inside.

My first visit to the Tate was also my first introduction to modern art. Now I'm visiting on a stop-over.

Here are the four exhibitions that struck me most:

Takis

A retrospective of Panayiotis Vassilakis' work. Many of Takis' pieces made tangible the invisible electromagnetic forces around us. Impossibly large pieces---likely made of lighter materials---brought from their resting position to hover next to a large magnet.

In the exhibition they also had a number of Takis' notebooks, where he had engineering drawings and plans for sculptures. Curator notes had quotes where Takis discussed the interdisciplinary nature of Art and it's relation to engineering and sciences. You can feel that sentiment in his work. Early pieces used aeronautical instruments salvaged from WWII aircraft, taking functional technical gauges and repurposing them for sculpture. Some of his later pieces were simple enough to be made commercially available.

Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha is an artist that started their in design. Many of their pieces are serious, visually appealing paintings, with weird mish-mashes of slogans typeset on top: bliss bucket.

Turning around the corner to enter the main exhibit, I was caught by a beautiful Rocky Mountain sunset with exaggerated blues and deep contrasting colours interrupted by typesetting over top: PAY NOTHING UNTIL APRIL. Every time Dylan and I re-entered the main room from one of the peripheral displays, I had to laugh.

Living Cities: Naoya Hatakeyama

One of the quieter exhibitions was Naoya Hatakeyama's cityscape photos of Japan. Naoya layers paper prints and transparencies over a lightbox. The resulting photos are scaled-down intimate photos of urban environments that seem to twinkle.

Elevators

Dylan recently watched a documentary on Olafur Eliasson's work, and was taken with the mono-frequency light installations he did. While we were on our way to the Tate's rooftop lookout, we decided to take the elevators: a largely unused space. Once the elevator doors closed, and the outside light was shut out, the colour was sapped from the room by the yellow mono-frequency light. The elevators---a space you only use to get from one place to the other---was turned into an installation.

Serendipity.


En route to Porto via London

Edmonton International Airport → Vancouver International Airport → Gatwick Airport


Getting ready for #ghc19 !

Really stoked to meet up with old friends and make some new ones 🤗✨


On my way to Canmore for the Folk Fest.

Victoria International Airport → Calgary International Airport → Canmore, Alberta




Enjoyed some of my favourite tempura fish and chips in the Victoria harbour.



Found a fun place for brunch in Victoria: John's Place.

Penut butter milkshakes; eggs benedict and waffles.


After paddling, Dylan and I went down to Victoria for a few days to sight-see before heading back to Alberta.

The greyhound looped around MillBay before heading down the Mallahat, which was a wave of nostalgia.

Courtenay, British Columbia → Nanaimo → Victoria, British Columbia


Going on an adventures in a sea-kayak for two 🚣🏼‍♀️


After the kayaking trip, we put our kayaks back into telegraph cove and explored their marine life museum.


Quadra Island → Campbell River, British Columbia → Telegraph Cove → Blinkhorn Peninsula → Johnstone Strait → Hanson Island → Plumper Islands → Hanson Island → Telegraph Cove

At: Johnstone Strait Kayaking

From 2019-07-25T00:00 To 2019-07-29T00:00


In montreal for RLDM 2019

Edmonton International Airport → Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport


Back home.

Kansai International Airport → Vancouver International Airport → Edmonton International Airport


Yesterday I visited Nara and hiked to the top of Mount Wakakusa. The friends I met at the top weren’t just hanging out at the peak: deer are all throughout the city, mingling with people; however, this congregation was a bit more wary of me than the city-dwellers. After sitting and resting a bit they warmed up to me and continues grazing as I watched the sunset over Todai-ji. In Nara, deer are sacred natural monuments believed to be messengers of the gods by one of the local temples.

Kyōto Station → Tōdai-ji → Mount Wakakusa


I made it to the top of Mount Hiei, a sacred mountain in Japan. At the top, I met a guy from Toronto. Canadians are everywhere.


The Okinawa airport has orchids all over the airport, even in all the jetways leading to the plane. It’s a nice way to be greeted when you land 🌸


One of the most frustrating aspects of traveling with friends who are men is having your change, or your tickets, or even your passport handed off to the man. Doesn’t matter if you are booked and paying separately, the dude gets your stuff.


Last day of diving in Okinawa. I’m glad I decided to pack my dive computer last-minute. Exploring the reef in Okinawa has been an absolute treat—so much life!

On to Kyoto!


Unexpected upside to traveling in a country who’s language you don’t understand: all location-based ads are effectively blocked by being uninterpretable.

It’s like Lorem Ipsum.


I found this little friend yesterday! A cute little Nudibranch. I love how varied the colours and shapes and sizes of sea-slugs are! They’re so delicate and beautiful. I could sit and watch these guys inch along all day 🐛

I’m really fortunate my trip aligned with the right season to see them. They only come out when the water is cooler; when it warms up, they head inside the coral to avoid the heat.


I couldn't book in for diving today, so it was a bit of a write-off. I didn't have much energy, so I just milled about around town. I found a nice urban market to have breakfast and meandered the side-streets.

I milled around the city center, dithering about which onsen to go to. Travelling around Okinawa is challenging without a vehicle. I found a little crafts store and spent some time taking in weaving and ceramics. Not sure about what to do, I dithered too long. I ran from the station to my bus stop, just missing the bust to the spa. I guess the place the Thai kids recommended will have to wait until another trip. I slowly made my way back to the hotel.


Today, I was one of many people picked up to go diving. When I hopped on the van, there was already a lady from Ohio. We chatted it up, and I found out she did software training with doctors. Neat. Next, we picked picked up a couple who spoke french on the way over. After seeing my shirt, they asked me if I was from Alberta. I was shocked to find someone on a dive boat in Japan that recognized Amii: the machine intelligence institute I belong to.

I climbed up to the top deck and chatted with them most of the way to the islands. Serendipity: they were both Canadian diplomats serving in South Korea. The both wanted to know more about AI. Evidently, their work touches on it: Korean investors are keen on Canadian, (and Albertan) AI research. I gave a boat-ride explanation on the differences between different machine learning methods, and how Reinforcement Learning---my favourite branch of AI---differs from many of the more common approaches to machine learning.

Today we did three lively dives: among the spottings were angelfish, clownfish, and sea-snakes. I had never seen clownfish before: one of the sea-creatures on my bucketfish. They were almost whisp-like; sentinels hovering over their anemone, keeping watch.

On our last dive, we went to a location with an abundance of sea turtles. It's always relaxing to watch these graceful creature slip through the currents; however, this dive was shockingly distressing. The dive-sites were heaving with other dive boats, with visitors kitted up to the gills. Almost every person on the other boats had top-of the line cameras with all the external flash-bulbs and lights. Thick gloves; thick booties.

As soon as our group made our descent, we found another group that was laying down on the coral reef. One of the divers was anchored onto living coral to get a shot of a turtle, completely oblivious that he was killing a vital member of his model's ecosystem. Satisfied with their shot, they kicked off the coral, breaking off six inches of stag-horn coral. For all the money poured into their gear, they didn't have even an ounce of buoyancy control.

There were so many disrespectful, dangerous divers. Crowding the marine life, grabbing the coral through the protection of thick, cumbersome gloves. Oblivious to their fins bashing into broad coral fans. If tourists keep treating the reef this way, it wont exist for much longer; ruined for everyone. Most of all, the turtles.


It’s my first day diving in Okinawa! Plenty of fish hiding away in sea anemone 🐟 This is my first time diving in Asia, and I’m really enjoying taking in all the surprising differences to what we see in the Americas.


When Tetsu dropped me off at the hotel, I washed off the salt and found a cab to the Naha Hare. Lined up at the harbour were dragonboat races, board-walk amusement park rides, and a coast-guard ship.

There was something heart-warming about the fair: it was clearly a family event. Seeing parents, children, and grandparents sharing picnics on the tarmac and watching the races was refreshing. I was the only tourist that I could spy. Not even military families made their way down the island; however, I find a lone gaggle of white women in kimonos.

At: Naha Hare 2019

From 2019-05-03T11:00 To 2019-05-05T22:00


Today was my first day in okinawa. Tetsu picked me up from the hotel and we made our way to a small harbour for the day. I was the only person picked up, but three Thai kids around my age met us at the boat. They were lovely.

We saw so many nudibranchs in every shape and size: my favourite sea creature. Seeing so many was a real surprise. During the summer, these sea slugs make their way into the coral to beat the heat. Being on the cusp of the season, it was a gamble as to whether we'd see them. This was the first time since high school that I'd seen them. Unlike my encounters in the Florida keys, the nudibranchs were so varied in colour: jet black, pale cream, bright blue. Spiky, smooth, and geometric.

It felt good to jump in the pool. To be honest, I hadn't quite relaxed since arrived in Japan. I had a lot of fun, but there was no down-time. Laying back on the boat between dives and letting the sun warm me up provided a much needed breather.

When we arrived back on land, Tetsu asked if I wanted lunch. After spending the morning swimming with the fishes, we ate at a local fish market. We wandered around the stalls and settled on a local soba place: the best soba I've had.


Today was the last day of Haru-no-Taisai, the spring grand festival at the Meji Jinju. Today’s service is the largest Shinto ceremony of the year for the shrine. Amongst the rituals is a sacred dance based on a poem written by Emperor Showa that calls for world peace.


That's it for Tokyo! On to Okinawa for a little bit a scuba-diving and some beach time.

I made my way to Meji-Jinju for Haru-no-Taisui: the spring festival. It's the largest shinto ceremony of the year at the shrine. Rituals include a sacred dance based on a poem for uninterrupted world peace.

Large tori gates lined unmistakably marked the trailhead. The only thing you could smell was lush forest decay. Large trees formed a dense, long walk to the outer courtyard of the shrine.

When I arrived, the service had started. There were many people seated facing inwards. Through the rows of those seated above at the dais, I could barely see the priests.

In the outer courtyard, it was an ordinary day. Devotees arrived at the shrine, making a steady chatter of coins being dropped into offering boxes. So much noise outside while such a somber service inside.

I waited and watched, hoping for a glimpse of the ceremony. A drum sounded. Someone let out a call. A procession made their way down the stairs, walking single file and in unison.

Haneda Airport → Naha Airport


Today Matt and I went to the Ghibli museum. I opted to wake up and head over a bit ealier to take in Tokyo craft week. I made my way over and found a small cafe that specialized in roasting and pour-overs. Swing jazz in the background. The man was friendly and greeted community members walking by, starting their day. He ground coffee for both of us, letting me smell the aroma of each to learn a bit more. I sat and enjoyed my cup, charting my path for the day.

I ambled down a street lined with artesans. I found a yarn store that would wind balls for you based on the yardage you need. I bought a fuzzy frog coin-pouch. The whole street felt like sidney outside of victoria. It had the same pace of people strolling up and down the street starting their day. I followed along.

There was really only one particular place I wanted to visit, and it was shut. I moseyed up and down the street to make sure that I was in the right place. Just as I was about to leave and head to the museum, a trendy-looking woman came barreling down the street to open up the shop. We chatted about about ceramics, and I picked up a chawan in natural colours with green glass pooled at the bottom.

I had to book it over to the museum to make it in time for our slot. Angling for a snack, I made my way into a tea shop that specialized in darjeeling. I was welcomed in by the woman running the shop. By the time I figured out they had no snacks it was too late: I felt like I could walk away from the woman running the store after she was so welcoming. I left with a great cup of tea and huffed it across one of the most beautiful parks I've seen, but regrettably didn't get to enjoy.

I could see why they chose to have the ghibli museum in such a magical, natural park.

It was fascinating how the unmistakably ghibli style was rendered into reality. The familiar shapes and details found in ordinary materials and objects. Even the plants had the look, although effortlessly. None of it felt cultivated.

I was struck by how the crowd interacted with the space. Photos were prohibited, save for a small spot on the roof-top terrace. This meant people were paying attention.

The exhibits didn't have too much content, but what was there was all informative and impactful. A series of rooms set up to look like an animation studio outlined key aspects of the process. My favourite was the story-boarding. The room was plastered with reference images from all sorts of films. I'm not sure if they were originals from film-making, but they were certainly hand-drawn. It was actually a very emotional experience. There were drawings of character studies out in the open, pinned with thumbtacks to the wall. Anyone could accidentally touch them or damage them, but they were in well cared for.

On a table were three art-books. Inside them were plastered cut-outs as a study for one of the films. Pieces of origami paper were used as borders and backgrounds. Everything from horoscopes to trains to military uniforms---all neatly placed in reference books.

The room was filled with treasures. Small sculptures, trinkets, prototypes, reference books piled into a mound. Chaotic productivity. I was inspired, although maybe my inspiration comes from a cargo-cult mentality. It looks productive.

There was a lot of care put into the details. Even the smoke-detectors had caricatures painted around them. There was a cabinet downstairs you couldn't open. Unlike the doors above it, it wouldn't budge; however, if you bent down---to the height of a child---you could lift a flap and peek inside. There was a collection of plush characters and an Oscar. It's not flaunted, but left hidden. You have to be curious to find it.

I bet there's countless treasures I missed.

Akihabara Station → Ghibli Museum


I'm sitting in a small floral shop getting ready for the day. I managed to sleep in and get some rest. I actually came here for dinner yesterday evening after wandering around town. There was a bit of a line: around two hours. I asked the woman at the end of the line about the cafe, and she said she would come and visit every time she was in Tokyo.

If it's so good you'll wait in line for two hours to get into a place you frequent, I guess I'll wait, too.

I started the day by going back to Shinjuku and seeing what it was like with more people out. I found a little side-street with a sign pointing inwards: COFFEE. I obliged.

Hiding in a fashionable and bare building was a tiny place. I ordered a matcha latte that was revelatory. While sipping at a swing-out bar-stool, I noticed a stack of booklets tucked neatly into a holder at the table.

Tokyo Craft Week.

It turns out the place Matt and I were going to tomorrow had plenty of little artisans around. I was excited. After polishing off my latte, I headed to the national gardens for tea-time.

I took it slow, looking for the traditional tea house tucked away. I found it sprouting up next to some bushes, almost hidden. I practiced my best polite entry and was greeted by an elderly lady in traditional formalwear. She sat me on a bench along the wall and handed me a tiny, fluffy sweet in the shape of a cloud.

I slowly sipped on my tea, listening to the rain tap on the thin roof. I continued around the park, rain coming and going with no particular direction. I found a cherry tree that had fallen, with a poem written on a sign next to the decaying husk. I crouched down, pulled out my phone, and drew the characters---like I was finger-painting on the screen. I wanted to read the poem.

There was a greenhouse with many micro-climates and a prodigious collection of carnivorous plants.

I still had a few hours before Matt's reservation at the robot restaurant. I passed the time by wandering around shinjuku. I heard a loud chant in the distance. I walked around until I found a procession and caught up with them. I think they were chanting to the new emperor that ascended to the throne today. There were people lining the streets looking at them, many with a look of irritation or bemusement. The procession was quite earnest about whatever they were preaching.

I then made my way to a few to a few shrines in the area. They were completely deserted because of the drizzling rain. One of them had a Buddha holding a staff that looked just like the sculpture in the National Museum of Scotland's statuary. I found that reassuring.

Harajuku → Shibuya → Shinjuku


A nice side-effect of new Game of Thrones episodes while I’m traveling: I’m encouraged me be present in the moment and not look at twitter for fear of being spoiled.


One of my favorite kinds of people watching when I’m traveling is observing selfie-taking. It’s fun seeing the difference between how people hold themselves when they know they’re going to be seen, and how they relax afterwards.

I say this with full self-awareness. My family doesn’t just want to see where I’ve been, they want to see me there!


This morning, I opted to do something familar: to retread my steps and go back to the renoir for a cup of coffee.

Afterwards, I trekked out to harajuku. I found the famous street and ambled along. Even at 9 A.M. it was already heaving. The streets were bursting at the seams although much of the street was closed.

I have to admit, while some aspects are wild---e.g., rainbow toasties---the street was otherwise unremarkable.

I focused on brahms path and confirmed a suspicion: it is named after the composer. Trundling down brahms path, Being one street removed, really changed the feeling. Even the smell of lush plants growing on the sides of buildings was nice. I charted out the places I wanted to visit and let interest guide me. When I found something unusual or mundane, I let that impulse guide me.

I found so many neat streets---interesting nooks and crannies. I went to a little coffee shop next to shinjuku. It had low ceilings and beautiful heavy wooden seating. I ordered a slice of cake and a pourover.

The couple sitting next to me seemed pleasant. They commented on my choice of cake. We started to chit-chat and I found out that they were from California, from SanFrancisco. One of them did arts and life reviews and commentary.

We chatted about their career, and the sustainability of the arts community in a city being crowded out by tech. They asked me what I did, and I mentioned I was a grad-student studying AI. One of them worked at GoogleBrain. You can never escape. There is no holiday.


This morning, I opted to do something familar: to retread my steps and go back to the renoir for a cup of coffee.

Afterwards, I trekked out to harajuku. I found the famous street and ambled along. Even at 9 A.M. it was already heaving. The streets were bursting at the seams although much of the street was closed.

I have to admit, while some aspects are wild---e.g., rainbow toasties---the street was otherwise unremarkable.

I focused on brahms path and confirmed a suspicion: it is named after the composer. Trundling down brahms path, Being one street removed, really changed the feeling. Even the smell of lush plants growing on the sides of buildings was nice. I charted out the places I wanted to visit and let interest guide me. When I found something unusual or mundane, I let that impulse guide me.

I found so many neat streets---interesting nooks and crannies. I went to a little coffee shop next to shinjuku. It had low ceilings and beautiful heavy wooden seating. I ordered a slice of cake and a pourover.

The couple sitting next to me seemed pleasant. They commented on my choice of cake. We started to chit-chat and I found out that they were from California, from SanFrancisco. One of them did arts and life reviews and commentary.

We chatted about their career, and the sustainability of the arts community in a city being crowded out by tech. They asked me what I did, and I mentioned I was a grad-student studying AI. One of them worked at GoogleBrain. You can never escape. There is no holiday.


This is a big day; it's the end of an era: an imperial era!

I went to Roppongi hills and wandered around a graveyard. A woman on a bicycle rounded the corner and pushed up the hill. A collection of pigeons emerged out of nowhere and followed her---a cloud.

As I was looking for a place to find coffee, I walked by a park with some homeless youth. what struck me was their organization. They were spot-cleaning their clothes, blotting then carefully with small towels.

Every now and then, I worry that I'm spending too much time on trip advisor, or the like---I'm focused too much on finding where to go and not enjoying where I am. I should be thinking around what's around me.

I ended up going to zozo-ji and exploring the mausoleum of tokigawa shoguns. I felt out of place in the small courtyard. There were no western tourists. It was peaceful watching people pray. A handful of the visitors bowed and prayed at select, specific shoguns.

Up at the temple's main hall, many people were lined up to bring incesnse to their forheads and sprinkle it into a burning pile in a bowl.

I was surprised by how gilt the temple was. It was almost as gold as a spanish church; however, it wasn't overwhelming. I think this is because the temple was restrained with its decoration and ornamentation: while select statues were complex, the room as a whole was minimalistic.

Also, I turned a corner and found an elevator. Could you imagine an elevator being retrofitted into a historical church? I don't believe I've ever seen one. When I found the elevator---an anachronism---it struck me how these spaces play a functional role for a large number of people. These temples are spaces that are designed with a practical purpose.

Most people non-religious people in japan pray at shines or private altars, although they don't identify as shintoist in surveys. You can see this in how vibrant the communities are around shines. There were so many families and young adults practicing their religion. At small shrines I walked by on the way to the temple, there were so many people casually stopping to pray.

In the evening, I went to a more popular Senso-ji: an ancient buddhist temple. It is one of the most popular temples in Tokyo to visit.

Droves of people. All of them milling about. I was overloaded with the sounds of people rattling sticks to find their fortune, the sound of people throwing their coins as an offering into massive slatted boxes before bowing in prayer.

While I had my tripod out taking shots of the temple two groups of men came up to me and started chatting. The first man was clearly off. With my chunky camera and travel tripod, I stick out. I was respectful about where I placed myself, making sure not to block the throngs of people moving by. I did stick out visually, though. The first man was maybe in his forties and hovered around me. He cracked jokes---introducing himself as 'Johnny Depp' and photo-bombing---but also silently stared at me in the distance. Something seemed wrong.

Later, a pair of men came up to me: one much older than the other and with far fewer teeth. They told me some things that I didn't quite catch, and the younger of the two suggested I return after dusk for better photos. The two asked to take a photo with me and continued milling about the area. When I bumped into them again, the older of the two gifted me a boar key-chain. I think it was because they saw me offer to take a photo for a family.

It's strange how two similar interactions can diverge for seemingly minor reasons.

Roppongi Hills → Tokyo Tower → Zōjō-ji → Sensō-ji


We woke up early to go to Odaiba: an artificial island filled with amusement parks and expo halls. The train to the island had a wonderful view; we dipsy doodled east, crossing a bridge over to the island. Through the dockside cranes you could catch glimpses of mount fuji: a little triangle on the horizon slightly obscured by particulate and capped with snow.

We were on the island to see the Team Epsom Digital Art Museum a concept piece that dwells on themes of nature and industry. We entered into a dark room that erupted into an open space covered in butterflies. There are no maps: there is no set path. We discovered each installation by exhaustively searching through a maze of hallways. I'm still not sure if we managed to even find all the installations.

The first room I found was my favourite: The Nest. You entered by climbing across a rope cat-walk down into a net. We were suspended in the dark above a mirrored floor, giving the impression that you're floating in an endless abyss. Lying down in the nest, you could see a mass of what looked like stars, all flickering in the void.

Once everyone was settled, a few glyphs moving and changing emerged from the darkness. Shapes and sounds whirred around, giving the feeling that you were warping through space and tine.

Getting lost in the museum was immensely satisfying. The whole labyrinth really imparted a sense of wonder. The meticulous sound-scaping and darkness of the museum created a complete, immersive experience.

What caught me the most was how they played with your perception by creating complex projections onto irregular spaces.

Each of the rooms had to be discovered. Subtle cues in the hallways alluded to the presence of another room---for instance processions of sedans of animals marching down the hall.

In the back of one of the rooms, obscured by a sheer curtain, was a tea-house. Using carefully arranged projectors, the chaisu's were decorated with blossoms that slowly blossomed in your tea as you drank it. ONce you finished, or if you disturbed the projection enough, the blossoms blew away.

It was beautiful to watch the cup with the froth---almost as interesting as watching the rest of the room discover their tea. There was a small child sat on a guardian's lap, helping herself to a bowl of matcha icecream. Although the room was dark, you could just barely catch her expression in the reflected light of a field of grass crowing around her icecream bowl.

The space was inspiring.


We wandered by Shibuya in the evening, just as the sun was setting. After emerging from the subway, we found ourselves pushing through a nationalist rally. Just as the speaker handed a microphone to a middle-aged woman, we crossed behind her: directly in the camera's line-of-sight.

I guess strong xenophobic sentiment is still and issue. In one of the department stores is a patio which hosts live music and has the best view of Shibuya crossing: one of the busiest intersections in the world.

We climbed to the observation deck and watched the hoards of people flood the street to cross along the chasm of the scramble. It wasn't until I started taking long-exposure shots that I noticed something: within the swarms of people are little stationary specks. You could see clusters of people taking selfies in the dead-centre of the crossing.


Day 0: Landing and Recovery

Today I landed in Tokyo for the first day of a three week trip around the country. I'm no stranger to long-haul flights. When I was an undergraduate student I had to make the voyage between western Canada and Scotland fairly regularly. In spite of my seasoned travelling, this was a uniquely punishing flight. I made the poor decision of trying to get work done on my flights, and by the time I arrived I paid for it.

I made my way through immigration relatively painlessly and drifted to the airport's train station. By this point, I was running on less than fumes: my tank was empty.

I rested into a coma as the airport train whirred past Narita, through the countryside, and into Tokyo proper. It didn't really click with me---It hadn't really settled that I was so far away until I saw Narita-san standing tall above the canopy of trees. I tried to soak in as much as possible while sinking deeper and deeper into my train seat. Rice paddies, amusement parks, shopping malls, forests all blurring together.

My friend and I found a nice, cheap hotel in Akihabara. Emerging from the station into the Friday-night rush was overwhelming. Salarymen heading to the bars were huddled on every corner.

The first thing I needed was food.

I've travelled a lot; I'm comfortable moving around in places where I don't know the native language. In spite of this, I milled around the same few blocks over and over again---spending well over an hour looking for a place to eat. The major inhibitor was a crushing social anxiety. I didn't want to be rude, but by not being fully aware of social protocol, I was inevitably going to be.

I eventually ended up steeling myself for ramen. Like a social freak, I stood outside of a ramen shop watching how the business people ordered. 1) Go to the kiosk, 2) enter your order, 3) take your seat and hand the waitstaff your ticket. I felt like a social freak for not being able to do something so simple.

It was a slightly solitary experience. People come in, eat, and then leave---a purely nutritional exchange. Like a sit-in taco truck. Only two people the entire time I was there exchanged a word between each other; everyone else ate in silence and then left. Often western people seem afraid of eating alone. After all, You should be able to find people to eat with. That anxiety of looking like a social outcast makes some sense: eating is in many senses a social experience in most western cultures.




Out in central Canada for my grandpa's 90th birthday.

Edmonton International Airport → Ottawa → Arnprior → Ottawa → Toronto Pearson International Airport → Edmonton International Airport


I often focus on the scenes in travel photography, cutting out people wherever possible; however, after binge-reviewing my old albums, I've noticed that the best photos are always ones where people are interacting with the environment--even when they're tourists!


Today I bit the data management bullet and started reviewing old photos. Geeze, I've forgotten how tedious it can be reviewing photos en masse: selecting them, editing them, exporting them, properly arranging them into albums..,


My labmate and I are heading to @CIFAR_News winter school on the neuroscience of consciousness and found a pepper robot in the wild (only one finger missing).

(I've never actually seen one practically put to use)


I was on a flight and the guy across the aisle from me clearly took a picture of the woman sitting next to him.

After the flight, I mentioned to him (in private) that I noticed he took a photo of her without her permission.

His response? "It's not even your problem".



Johannes and I had a some time before our flight left after the AAAI Fall Symposium Series to go check out some of the sights in D.C. We walked around the mall in the morning before the crowds descended and had a chance to take in the monuments with very few people around.

You often see the Vietnam War memorial in popular media, and for good reason: the Vietnam memorial is impactful.

I had never seen any depiction of the Korean War memorial: a lush statuary, rather than the typical neo-classical plaza.

The only way to experience the memorial is through a forest. To get to the inscription and the fountain you must emerge from cover into a clearing with a platoon of brass statues. The first statue seems to be waving you back.

The monument brings the environment to the statues.

There were a few wreathes laid down by the fountain, both with fresh flowers from Korean community organizations.


America: A Still Life 🥤

#travel #travelphotography


I had a chance to walk around Washington for a few hours with Johannes.

Lincoln Memorial

We first visited the Lincoln Memorial, which was shockingly smaller than I had expected. You grow up seeing all these monuments in art and movies; when you finally see the real thing, it's a bit weird.

It's this uncanny valley that you wander into. You're so familiar with the monument as media short-hand for some idea, that the real monuments seem somehow incomplete. There's these grand larger-than-life expectations of iconic monuments, and then there's the reality of wandering up to the monument which looks largely the same as any other statue.

There's several minor monuments around the perimeter of the mall. This one was one of my favorites, because it's been transformed into a roundabout.

When I die, I want my legacy to be immortalized into a neo-classical traffic circle.

MLK Memorial

The MLK memorial was strange. It's much newer than I expected---completed in 2011. To get to the plaza, you emerge from between a mountain split in half into a plaza. The plaza is wide open space looking over a lake with what looks like the peak of the mountain hurled into the center.

When you approach the slab from the other side you're greeted with MLK's likeness looking off into the corner. The concept is neat. The statue itself seems a bit stern.

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial is probably one of the most influential monuments on popular culture---It seems to be referenced the most. It's relevance makes sense: it's the most recent war monument. Many people have immediate family who fought in the war.

It's simply a chevron of names cut into the ground. What was truly interesting was the collection of volunteers manning the monument.

These volunteers seemed to predominantly be Vietnam vets. They stood around the monument, helping visitors find the names of loved-ones. They even had cards and a step-stool to take rubbings of the monument, allowing people to take the name home with them.

Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is almost feels more impressive than the Lincoln memorial.

The statue was placed in the centre of a circular room. Inscribed on the walls were a selection Jefferson's quotes.

Interestingly, there was this quote on constitutional inerrancy which I thought was strikingly poignant, especially with the discussion of restricting gun ownership in the wake of numerous mass shootings. I guess certain legislation gets enshrined as being beyond criticism, even against the intent of those who influenced it.

Tidal Pool

Johannes and I continued around the park, wandering around before grabbing a bite. As the morning shifted into the afternoon, the mall came alive with numerous charity events and political marches.

White House

Before heading to lunch, we made an obligatory visit to the White House. Again, it was much smaller than I imagined it would be. I'm fairly certain it's smaller than the albertan provincial legislative buildings.

Examining the roof-line, there is a hint of grey concrete which seems out of place with the neo-classical mansion. There's what looks like a reinforced bunker on the top of the building. On closer inspection, there was someone standing on the roof with some kind of gun, surveying the surroundings.

People-watching in front of the White House is fascinating. A number of protestors were lining the pavement where tourists were taking photos. A man was pacing back and forth across the length of the White House Lawn with a sign imploring republicans to stand up to Trump.

When I was crossing the border, the homeland security officer gave me recommendations for Washington. One of them was Old Ebbit Grill.

This place is my aesthetic. It has a nice, quiet warmth to it. Wood paneling and dim lighting; hunter green velvet couches; walls mounted with trophies rumored to be shot by Teddy Roosevelt.

After lunch we wandered around town, spending the last couple of hours taking in the streets on the other side of the mall and lamenting the fact we didn't get to visit any of the Smithsonian museums during our trip.


I had a chance to walk around Washington for a few hours with Johannes.

Lincoln Memorial

We first visited the Lincoln Memorial, which was shockingly smaller than I had expected. You grow up seeing all these monuments in art and movies; when you finally see the real thing, it's a bit weird.

It's this uncanny valley that you wander into. You're so familiar with the monument as media short-hand for some idea, that the real monuments seem somehow incomplete. There's these grand larger-than-life expectations of iconic monuments, and then there's the reality of wandering up to the monument which looks largely the same as any other statue.

There's several minor monuments around the perimeter of the mall. This one was one of my favorites, because it's been transformed into a roundabout.

When I die, I want my legacy to be immortalized into a neo-classical traffic circle.

MLK Memorial

The MLK memorial was strange. It's much newer than I expected---completed in 2011. To get to the plaza, you emerge from between a mountain split in half into a plaza. The plaza is wide open space looking over a lake with what looks like the peak of the mountain hurled into the center.

When you approach the slab from the other side you're greeted with MLK's likeness looking off into the corner. The concept is neat. The statue itself seems a bit stern.

"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."

Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial is probably one of the most influential monuments on popular culture---It seems to be referenced the most. It's relevance makes sense: it's the most recent war monument. Many people have immediate family who fought in the war.

It's simply a chevron of names cut into the ground. What was truly interesting was the collection of volunteers manning the monument.

These volunteers seemed to predominantly be Vietnam vets. They stood around the monument, helping visitors find the names of loved-ones. They even had cards and a step-stool to take rubbings of the monument, allowing people to take the name home with them.

Jefferson Memorial

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is almost feels more impressive than the Lincoln memorial.

The statue was placed in the centre of a circular room. Inscribed on the walls were a selection Jefferson's quotes.

Interestingly, there was this quote on constitutional inerrancy which I thought was strikingly poignant, especially with the discussion of restricting gun ownership in the wake of numerous mass shootings. I guess certain legislation gets enshrined as being beyond criticism, even against the intent of those who influenced it.

Tidal Pool

Johannes and I continued around the park, wandering around before grabbing a bite. As the morning shifted into the afternoon, the mall came alive with numerous charity events and political marches.

White House

Before heading to lunch, we made an obligatory visit to the White House. Again, it was much smaller than I imagined it would be. I'm fairly certain it's smaller than the albertan provincial legislative buildings.

Examining the roof-line, there is a hint of grey concrete which seems out of place with the neo-classical mansion. There's what looks like a reinforced bunker on the top of the building. On closer inspection, there was someone standing on the roof with some kind of gun, surveying the surroundings.

People-watching in front of the White House is fascinating. A number of protestors were lining the pavement where tourists were taking photos. A man was pacing back and forth across the length of the White House Lawn with a sign imploring republicans to stand up to Trump.

When I was crossing the border, the homeland security officer gave me recommendations for Washington. One of them was Old Ebbit Grill.

This place is my aesthetic. It has a nice, quiet warmth to it. Wood paneling and dim lighting; hunter green velvet couches; walls mounted with trophies rumored to be shot by Teddy Roosevelt.

After lunch we wandered around town, spending the last couple of hours taking in the streets on the other side of the mall and lamenting the fact we didn't get to visit any of the Smithsonian museums during our trip.



Really excited to head to my first #GHC2018 tomorrow! Does anyone have advice for how to make the most of it as a first-timer?


Are any #indieweb folks heading to #ghc2018 this year? If there's any interest, I'd love to have an ad-hoc homebrew website club!


Sights from DLLS & RLSS 2018 in Toronto.

This year I went to DLSS and RLSS in Toronto. The introductory talks were probably the best intro to neural nets talks I'd seen: the talks were tight and intuitive without having to water down the technical details.

The number of people cramming in for the summer school was surprising. It's really great to see how interest in Reinforcement Learning has picked up in recent years.

Being back in Toronto for the summer means that I had I had the chance to wander around kensington market again. This time, sans persistent summer flu. With a few fellow students in tow, Anna and I hit up Yarns Untangled, the first LYS I ever visited. We picked up needles and yarn to teach some people how to knit while sharing a pitcher of beer on the patio across the street.

Against my better judgement, I picked up a few indie-dyed skeins of yarn. One from lichen and lace---a dyer on the east coast---and one from fiesty fibers---a local Torontonian who happened to be having a trunk sale while we were in town.

Who knows what the skeins will end up being. I suppose I can always teach myself how to knit socks.

Having the chance to hit up local yarn stores with active communities reminds me of what I'm missing out on in Edmonton. YU felt like a community hub. People would would gather on their couches, chatting with each other while they worked on whatever project they were carrying with them.

While I was waiting for a few people I sat myself down next two a couple of women and felt right at home chatting with them about how they originally started knitting and what they were currently working on. It's really refreshing to have these spaces which people can come into and join without any introduction: it's really healthy to have these communities where people can just feel at home.

I have no regrets about wandering into Little Pebbles to have Japanese dessert before meeting with some of the other students for brunch. I had this little matcha tiramisu which was carefully constructed in this little box which reminded me of sake drinking vessels. Interestingly, instead of a brandy base, at the bottom of the tiramisu was a bit of red bean paste to sweeten and balance out the earthy matcha flavours.

The whole place was bright and funky without being overwhelmingly ornate. It was an unusual and pleasant surprise to see the little signs up on the tables which politely notified people that they had to put their electronics away during peak hours--an attempt to foster community and conversation.

When wandering around the city I found a whole bunch of cute ceramics, which make me regret not having kept up with pottery after highschool. Maybe I'll need to eventually fix that and take a course at Edmonton's city arts centre.

The closest coffee shop to where I was staying was Hopper. It was a cute little place with great snacks and even better espresso. In spite of being fairly spartan in terms of quantity of furniture, what they had was really funky---i.e., campbell's soup can tables.

I finally managed to try goldstruck--a place I wanted to visit while I was interning in Toronto, but never quite had the chance to. They definitely themed the place appropriately. Walking down the stairs into the sub-terrainian coffeeshop, you're greeted by the warm glow of industrial lighting and mining-inspired decor. Even the bathroom has these massive wooden barn-doors which slide open.

Of course, my favourite little cafe was sorry: a little gem that's tucked away in a corner, unapologetically making great espresso and pastries.


Sights from DLLS & RLSS 2018 in Toronto.

This year I went to DLSS and RLSS in Toronto. The introductory talks were probably the best intro to neural nets talks I'd seen: the talks were tight and intuitive without having to water down the technical details.

The number of people cramming in for the summer school was surprising. It's really great to see how interest in Reinforcement Learning has picked up in recent years.

Being back in Toronto for the summer means that I had I had the chance to wander around kensington market again. This time, sans persistent summer flu. With a few fellow students in tow, Anna and I hit up Yarns Untangled, the first LYS I ever visited. We picked up needles and yarn to teach some people how to knit while sharing a pitcher of beer on the patio across the street.

Against my better judgement, I picked up a few indie-dyed skeins of yarn. One from lichen and lace---a dyer on the east coast---and one from fiesty fibers---a local Torontonian who happened to be having a trunk sale while we were in town.

Who knows what the skeins will end up being. I suppose I can always teach myself how to knit socks.

Having the chance to hit up local yarn stores with active communities reminds me of what I'm missing out on in Edmonton. YU felt like a community hub. People would would gather on their couches, chatting with each other while they worked on whatever project they were carrying with them.

While I was waiting for a few people I sat myself down next two a couple of women and felt right at home chatting with them about how they originally started knitting and what they were currently working on. It's really refreshing to have these spaces which people can come into and join without any introduction: it's really healthy to have these communities where people can just feel at home.

I have no regrets about wandering into Little Pebbles to have Japanese dessert before meeting with some of the other students for brunch. I had this little matcha tiramisu which was carefully constructed in this little box which reminded me of sake drinking vessels. Interestingly, instead of a brandy base, at the bottom of the tiramisu was a bit of red bean paste to sweeten and balance out the earthy matcha flavours.

The whole place was bright and funky without being overwhelmingly ornate. It was an unusual and pleasant surprise to see the little signs up on the tables which politely notified people that they had to put their electronics away during peak hours--an attempt to foster community and conversation.

When wandering around the city I found a whole bunch of cute ceramics, which make me regret not having kept up with pottery after highschool. Maybe I'll need to eventually fix that and take a course at Edmonton's city arts centre.

The closest coffee shop to where I was staying was Hopper. It was a cute little place with great snacks and even better espresso. In spite of being fairly spartan in terms of quantity of furniture, what they had was really funky---i.e., campbell's soup can tables.

I finally managed to try goldstruck--a place I wanted to visit while I was interning in Toronto, but never quite had the chance to. They definitely themed the place appropriately. Walking down the stairs into the sub-terrainian coffeeshop, you're greeted by the warm glow of industrial lighting and mining-inspired decor. Even the bathroom has these massive wooden barn-doors which slide open.

Of course, my favourite little cafe was sorry: a little gem that's tucked away in a corner, unapologetically making great espresso and pastries.



The gang goes to an art lagoon. #travel #gradschool


We found a bridge. #travel #gradschool





I got to drive in a Canadian #autonomouscar today! 🚘 🇨🇦 # sucansummit



Go time. ✈️🌞


Landing in Billings; en route to the #eclipse ✈️




In Ann Arbour for #RLDM 👩🏼‍💻


Man, AirBNB hosts can be awful.


Where I'm living for the next two weeks. #yyc


My last stop on the Danube: Passau, Germany. It's a tiny town which is notable for it's gothic and baroque architecture.

Bridge

Water

Walkway

Tall building photos

Landmarks

Cathedral

Prince Bishop's residence

Maria Hilf

Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)


The sight I was most excited about: Melk Abbey. It's *very* baroque.



A gothic cathedral in Vienna. It's got a really good clock.


The Viennese treasury. Filled with ridiculous things: The Holy Roman Empire's Crown, one of the largest emeralds in the world, etc.

The Crown

Sword Details

Emerald

Crown

Sceptre

honors


Unexpectedly fun city of the trip: Budapest.

Fisherman's Bastion

Details

Neat ornamentation

Market

Neat Buildings

Synagogue


An odd foray into Serbia: It's a weird city with sad history.


A stop in Romania to say I stopped in Romania. Went to see an oddity: a church built in the 1970s.


My last stop in Bulgaria before getting on a boat and heading down the Danube.


I am okay.


Greetings from Passau.


Day one on my trip down the danube: Sofia, Bulgaria. I walked around some of the popular sights, seeing orthodox cathedrals, Serdician ruins, and an actual yellow-brick road.


Greetings from wine (Wachau).


Greetings from Budapest.


Favourite things: when airport security decides to open sanitary napkins when searching luggage.





Provisional Post


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Just a placeholder


Just a placeholder for the actual images


Just a placeholder for now.


Just a placeholder for the album


A day on the water: cenotes, cave diving, and canoeing.